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OPINION: June runoffs loom for County Judge, House, Senate seats

by By Maylon Rice | June 1, 2022 at 5:25 a.m.

The votes from the May 24 Preferential Primary were not as surprising as many had expected.

A spate of runoffs on the GOP side for Washington County Judge, State Senate District 35 and state House District 23 will be on Washington County voters June 21 runoff ballots.

A mild surprise on election night was the state Senate 31 victory by state House member Clint Penzo over Andrew Thompson and Paul Colvin, Jr., in the GOP primary. Penzo collected 59.4% of the votes, avoiding a runoff.

It will be a tough race for Penzo in November against Lisa Parks, a centrist Democrat candidate who drew within 34 votes to upset Kolby Fulford in that senate district race after state Sen. Lance Eads resigned last fall.

Set for June 21 is a state Senate race for western Washington and western Benton counties as Siloam Springs businessman Tyler Dees and state Rep. Gayla Hendren McKenzie, of Gravette, will have a runoff.

Sen. Jim Hendren, I-Gravette, Gayla's brother, did not seek re-election to the newly drawn district.

In Washington County, in the primary, Dees, a first-time campaigner, drew 1,951 votes or 36.7% of the vote totals. McKenzie polled 1,621 votes of 30.37% in Washington County vote totals. Candidate Jeff Tennant pulled in 1,452 votes, or 27%.

In Benton County voting, Dees drew 2,340 votes or 53.71% of the votes cast; McKenzie was second with 1,537 votes or 35.28%. Candidate Jeff Tennant polled only 480 votes in Benton County.

In the state House District 23 seat on the western side of Washington County, affecting the cities of Lincoln and Prairie Grove, there is also a June 21 runoff. The winner of the runoff will face Libertarian Ryan Hanson in the November general election.

Lincoln School Board member and business owner Kendra Moore, of Lincoln, led the ticket with 1,702 or 47.1% of all votes.

Jim Wilson, a retired Washington County Health Department employee of Greenland, was second with 1,068 votes of 29.6%. Byron Suggs polled 843 votes of 23.3% in the race.

The former state Representative for the western side of Washington County and a large portion of Crawford County, state Rep. Charlene Fite, of Van Buren, easily dispatched challenger Christie Robinson, of Alma, in the newly drawn House District 24 race.

Rep. Fite collected 3,164 votes in both counties for 63.37% of all votes cast. Robertson managed only 1,829 or 36.63% in this race. Washington County's small total of 490 votes in this race was largely in favor of Fite who polled 68.9% or 358 votes to Robertson's 132.

A GOP challenge from Fayetteville real estate salesman Don McNaughton against re-run candidate Brian Hester, of Fayetteville, fell short. Hester, a brother to state Senator Bart Hester of Cave Springs, collected 66.1% of the GOP votes or 1,422 to McNaughton's 627 votes.

Hester will face five-time incumbent Democrat David Whitaker who polled over 60% of the vote against Hester two years ago in the November election.

The biggest revelations during the evening were that gubernatorial nominee Sarah Huckabee Sanders won convincingly statewide without a runoff in Washington County; she polled 15,812 of the 19,598 in her contest for a 78.8% victory.

Up in Benton County, Sanders pulled in 22,872 votes of the 29,012 cast for an 80.29% total in victory. Sanders is the first woman to win the GOP nomination for governor and may well be on her way to be the first woman to occupy the governor's chair at the state capitol.

In a mild upset, attorney Mark Scalise led the GOP balloting for Washington County Judge in a four-person GOP scrum with 6,442 votes or 32.13% of the totals. Justice of the Peace Patrick Deakins, of Springdale, was second with 4,653 votes or 23.1% of the total.

Washington County grants employee Sharon Lloyd finished third with 4,185 votes while Tom Terminella ran last in the quartet with 3,810 votes of the ballots cast.

The GOP runoff is June 21.

• • •

Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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